Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sara's Potatoes

Have you ever noticed that if you make a dish that a lot of people like and bring it repeatedly to parties over the years, the dish becomes yours? Hence, Sara’s Potatoes!  When I reach back into my cooking archives, I see that the first time I made this dish was 1986!! It was an “assignment” dish given to me to make for a progressive dinner party we were attending. The recipe was then called Potatoes Fontecchio and was taken from one of the Silver Palate cookbooks, I think. I liked the dish then and I like it still. It does not disappoint. Of course, if you don’t like garlic then maybe this isn’t the dish for you. The surprise combo I believe is the garlic with the mint and it will tickle your taste buds.

This recipe makes the dish for a crowd (16) You can easily downsize for your own purposes.

9 lbs. baby red skin potatoes
Bunch of fresh mint (chopped) if fresh mint is not available don’t make this dish
Chopped garlic (I use the jarred-it’s easy)
Freshly ground pepper
Kosher salt (a must)
Olive oil

Wash red skins and prick with fork.  Place on baking tins and roast for 1-¾ hours at 350. While still warm slice each potato in half and layer in bowl with each potato layer receiving a healthy drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, sprinkle of garlic and fresh mint. Serve at room temperature.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Our Baby is 30!

Our Baby is 30!

How can it be that one minute you have a little one and then before you know it that baby is turning 30? Obviously, he’s aging but not me! Ha!  Birthdays most often involve food of some kind—snacks, ice cream and cake and the like. Our son’s various birthdays often involved parties with friends sometimes at home with games on the driveway and treats in the screened in porch or sometimes in exotic places like a bowling alley or the local movie theater. For quite a few years I made a checkerboard cake for his birthday that he seemed to love! Aside from the parties with friends, I would often ask him what he wanted for his birthday dinner. Over the years I had a lot of fairly predictable responses except the year he turned five. That year, my husband and I knew he was no ordinary kid. When asked what he'd like for his special dinner, he didn’t miss a beat and said, “scallops, wild rice and peas, please.” I have to admit I was somewhat stunned. I just wasn’t expecting that response. I think I was expecting chicken nuggets or mac and cheese. So, to mark this milestone birthday, we’ll be having scallops, wild rice and peas, please. We can’t dine together since we’ve so many miles between us, but we’ll savor our meal along with the sweet memories of raising our son who I might add has grown into an extraordinary 30-year-old man! Happy Birthday, Kiddo!

Birthday Dinner

Wild Rice (see revision)
Peas with Tarragon


1 lb sea scallops
Salt and pepper
Dried marjoram
Olive oil
Unsalted butter
½ cup dry wine (I like Sauvignon Blanc-which you can then also enjoy with the dinner)
Balsamic vinegar

Heat a T of olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Pat scallops dry and add to skillet and cook 3 minutes on each side. While each side is cooking sprinkle lightly with salt, pepper, and marjoram. Remove from pan and keep warm.

Add wine and vinegar to pan and cook about 3 minutes stirring with whisk-add the scallops back and stir around and plate! Yum

Wild Rice (revised)

So, have you ever gone to your pantry shelves right before it’s time to cook a certain item and realize oops, thought I had that-guess I don’t? Happened to me and I luckily did spot some whole-wheat orzo while digging around in there for something worthy of my scallops!

Wild Rice morphed into Whole Wheat Orzo with Feta and Fresh Basil

Cook 1 cup whole-wheat orzo in boiling water, drain and mix with feta cheese and fresh basil and a drizzle of good olive oil.

Peas with Tarragon

Cooked frozen peas, drain, dot with some unsalted butter, salt and pepper and tarragon.

Bon Appetit and Happy Birthday!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Tomato Fever!

Plain and simple-the tomato is just about perfect food in my humble opinion. The tomato gives garlic, onion and mushroom a reason to exist. During the summer we can relish in consuming real tomatoes and during the winter we can consume vast quantities of tinned tomatoes. My mother always said that anything (even luggage!) could be improved with a fresh coat of paint and I sort of feel that way about tomatoes. A tomato improves most any dish. That being said, I did get a little carried away at the Farmers Market on Saturday when I impulsively purchased a very LARGE basket of plum tomatoes. They just looked so cute that before I knew it they were in the trunk of my car. Now what? After cruising through my cookbooks, various blogs, and the Food Network, I have a PFMT (Plan for my Tomatoes!)

I’ll straight away make a grand gazpacho to capture their immediate great tomato taste. I decided against using my tried and true recipe and am rolling out a new version authored by Wolfgang Puck, well-known chef, restaurateur, and television personality. Actually, I like to think that “Wolf” and I go way back since my husband and I ate at his newly opened first restaurant, Spago—Italian slang for spaghetti—in 1984. Situated in the heart of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, the bistro became a hot spot for celebrity clientele (visiting from Ann Arbor!) while Puck was credited with rejuvenating California cuisine. So, with a nod to Puck, let’s get this tomato party started with the following:

Wolfgang Puck’s Gazpacho

• 2 pounds, about 10 Roma tomatoes, cored and chopped
• 1/2 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and chopped
• 1 English cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
• 2 medium celery stalks, chopped
• 1/2-cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
• 1 tablespoon tomato paste
• 2 cups tomato juice
• 1/2 cup water
• 1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar
• 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 3 tablespoons sugar
• 2 tablespoons kosher salt
• 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
• 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
• 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients for the soup. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Transfer to a food processor and pulse until almost pureed, leaving a little texture. Season with salt and pepper. Return to bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving. Prepare topping mixture. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients (not avocado) until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until needed. To serve: Ladle 10 to 12 ounces into chilled soup plates. On a large serving spoon, place 1/4 cup of the topping mixture, top with 2 shrimp, and garnish with a sprig of cilantro. Carefully place in the center of the plate of soup. Place a wedge of lime or lemon on the rim of the plate.

Topping Mixture
• 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, trimmed, and cut into 1/4 inch dice
• 1 yellow bell pepper, cored, seeded, trimmed, and cut into 1/4 inch dice
• 1/4 cup red onion, peeled, trimmed, and cut into 1/4 inch dice
• 1/4 cup cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/4 inch dice
• 4 plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped
• 3 ripe avocados, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2 inch dice
• 1 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
• 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
• Kosher salt
• Freshly ground black pepper

• 12 to 16 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, butterflied, poached, and chilled
• 6 to 8 sprigs fresh cilantro
• Lime or lemon wedges

The gazpacho hasn’t even made a dent in this box of tomatoes so let’s get cookin’ with the following recipes to make and freeze:

Roasted Tomato Sauce
• Large quantity plum or slicer tomatoes
• 1/4 large onion per quart (dry measure) tomatoes
• 1 clove garlic per quart tomatoes
• Salt
• Ground black pepper
• Olive oil
Wash and trim tomatoes of anything you wouldn’t want to eat, such stem scars. Halve small tomatoes (such as plums) or cut large tomatoes into chunks. Let’s say 1-inch cubes, but larger is fine.
Distribute tomatoes in large ovenproof pans with a lip to catch juices. Tomatoes don’t have to be in a single layer, but don’t mound appreciably above the height of the pan’s lip, as the tomatoes will give off juice.
Peel and trim onion and garlic and distribute among tomatoes. Generously sprinkle tomatoes with salt and pepper, and drizzle oil over all. I stirred the mixture a little to distribute the oil
Place pans on racks in 350-degree oven and roast about 2 hours, or until the tomatoes have cooked down considerably, and the onions and garlic are soft. Expect the tomatoes to be sitting in some liquid.
Cool, then transfer tomato mixture in batches to the bowl of food processor and puree, skin and all. Marvelous! Transfer to freezer containers and freeze, or use as desired. Yield: A lot of tomato sauce.

Spaghetti Sauce Base

Step 1 Wash and core 25 tomatoes and cut into chunks. Remove as many seeds as you feel like—I don’t go nuts with this. Place tomato chunks in large stockpot. Chop up a few onions and a huge green pepper and add to pot. Throw in some garlic and fresh parsley if you have it, 3 T sugar, 2 T salt, and ½ T pepper.

Step 2 Bring to a boil on stove. Lower heat and leave the sauce to simmer for an hour stirring it once and a while.

Step 3 Cool sauce and pour in food processor and blend. Pour into quart freezer bags leaving ½ inch at top to allow for freezing. Seal and freeze.

Bon Appetit!

Tribute to Sheila Lukins

Recently a good friend mentioned that she had made ratatouille in remembrance of the late Sheila Lukins, cookbook author and founder of Silver Palate Foods. Over the years I have referred to one of her first cookbooks, The New Basics Cookbook, many times. In fact, one of my all-time favorite recipes for garlic roasted redskins was adapted from a potato recipe in that very book. I decided to use both the New Basics book and her USA cookbook in tonight’s meal preparation. In honor of Sheila Lutkins we enjoyed:

Asian-Style Barbecued Pork Tenderloin
Asian Ratatouille
Marinated Cucumber Salad

Asian-Style Barbecued Pork Tenderloin
Adapted from a recipe in U.S.A. cookbook

½ cup soy sauce (low sodium)
2-½ T sesame oil
1 ½ T minced garlic
2 t fresh lime juice
2 t rice wine vinegar
1 ½ t ground ginger

Pkg. of pork tenderloins

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Place pork tenderloins in a zip lock bag with marinade and refrigerate for 3 hours

Asian-Style Barbecue Sauce

¾ cup of your favorite Barbecue Sauce ( I used D L Jardine’s Killer Sauce)
2 T soy sauce
1 T sesame oil
1 T rice wine vinegar
½ t minced garlic
½ ground ginger

Mix all the ingredients in small saucepan and simmer gently for 5 minutes. Remove and cool to room temperature.

When ready to cook dinner:

Heat grill to high.

Place tenderloins on grill, close cover and turn heat down to medium/low. Grill for 7 minutes

Turn tenderloins and grill for 7 more minutes. Place on platter and cover with foil and let meat rest for ten minutes, then slice thinly on the diagonal. Pour some of the barbecue sauce over the meat and pass extra.

Asian Ratatouille
Adapted from a recipe in the New Basics Cookbook

1 small eggplant peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes
6 T sesame oil
2 ribs celery cut diagonally into ¼ inch slices
1 onion cut into slivers
1 red pepper julienned
2 small zucchini halved lengthwise and cut into ¼ inch slices
¾ cup chicken broth
2 T soy sauce
1 T dry sherry
1 t cornstarch
1 t minced garlic
½ t ground ginger
2 t hoisin sauce
1 T chopped cilantro
2 T chopped scallions (I used chives)
2 T toasted sesame seeds

Sprinkle the eggplant with salt and place in a colander to drain for 30 minutes

Preheat over to 350

Heat 3 T sesame oil in large flameproof casserole or dutch oven (with lid). Sauté the celery, onion and red pepper five minutes. Remove veggies and set aside.

Add the remaining oil and sauté the zucchini and eggplant for 5 minutes. Add the reserved veggies back to the pot and remove from heat.

Combine the broth, soy sauce, sherry, garlic, ginger, hoisin sauce and cornstarch in a small bowl and blend well with wire whisk. Pour over vegetable mixture, cover and bake 40 minutes.

Stir in the cilantro, garnish with chives and sesame seeds.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Maple Sugar Salmon

Maple Sugar Salmon

Okay, so the summer is ending and school has begun and my postings will probably begin to dwindle. However, it’s Labor Day Weekend and the weather is gorgeous so it seems only right to fire up the grill once again! Tonight we had a wonderful piece of salmon and I decided to try a new topping. I had some seasoning that I had purchased from a trip to Maine: Pure Maple Sugar with Italian Black Pepper from Sunnyside Maples made in Gilmanton, New Hampshire. I rubbed the fillet with olive oil and liberally sprinkled the maple sugar mixture all over and put it on the grill—first on high then turned down low for around ten minutes. In the meantime, I sautéed some baby sliced portabellas in sweet butter and then added a bag a spinach, some chopped garlic, pepper, sea salt, and balsamic vinegar to finish. Delish I must say and well, I guess the summer still isn’t really over ☺